Tuesday, 8 January 2013


From MOMA collection - Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Pablo Picasso (1881–1973)

While preparing for my talk I found that MOMA has its press releases on line so, I was delighted to discover the series of releases from February thru to March 1935 which led up to the opening of its African Negro Art exhibition and the commissioning of the photographs of its exhibits by the young, up and coming photographer of sculptor - Walker Evans.

The releases revealed (amongst other things):

The 603 pieces came from Europe’s African colonial powers – England, Germany, Belgium and France – and from some American collectors.

The list of collectors who loan work included:

The Artist                Henri Mattisi (Picasso's life long friend)
The Art Dealer        D H Kahnweiller (as well as his dealer, he championed Picasso)
The Museum            Musee d’ Ethnographie , Paris (Picasso visited here in 1907)

All very closely associated with Picasso – and yet Picasso denied ever having been influenced by African Art!
From V& A Collection: Polychrome mask, Ivory Coast, Walker Evans, 1903 - 1975

I recall visiting the Picasso Museum  in Barcelona which had a display dedicated to his figurative design development of the mask shapes found in his seminal 1907 work Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. According to the drawings this development was based solely on the leaf as inspiration shape for the face – nothing to do with African Religious Masks.......

An alternative source for the masks in Picasso’s work is given by Ingo Walther in his Picasso Monogram for Taschen. In which he argues Picasso discovered the figurative design for himself , by himself. Walther uses a 1907 sketchbook as proof.

I am not persuaded, I believe Picasso was principally inspired by the African religious masks he saw at the Ethnographic Museum in Paris which he visited in 1907.

Meanwhile the research and preparation continues.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Speaking at the V&A

I have been invited to speak at Victoria and Albert Museum's AFRICA:SPEED,SEARCH, SOUND Feb 1st. I have chosen to talk about Walker Evans's 1935 'African Negro Art' photographs for MOMA.

Looking forward to discussing what's the difference between art and artefact between Oxford's Pitt Rivers Musuem and London's Tate Modern presentation of 'African Negro Art'.